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'Grab the bin bags, and put the wine on ice': 20 steps to reordering your classroom for the new school year

The new term is here and the air of renewal is palpable – perfect for overhauling your classroom...if you can part with the clutter

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The new term is here and the air of renewal is palpable – perfect for overhauling your classroom...if you can part with the clutter

Every August, I get the urge to redecorate my classroom for the coming school year.

You might be familiar with this phenomenon yourself: it’s the teacher version of the nesting impulse that pregnant women experience shortly before their child screams its way bloodily into the world and torments them for the next 18 years.

It may be a wee bit late this year, but just in case you’re thinking of transforming your own workspace this weekend, I’ve written out my handy 20-step process of classroom reorganisation for you.

Grab the bin bags and put the wine on ice: we’re going in.

  1. Waltz cheerily into school, ignoring the tower of memos in your pigeonhole. Head straight to your new classroom.
  2. Enter, armed with your trusty boxes of resources and the only staple gun in the building that works. What a dismal mess. Why did the previous occupant think they needed all this furniture? And just look at their dreary displays. Thank goodness you’re here now – you can fix this up in a jiffy. It’s going to be exactly like the scene in Mary Poppins where they tidy up the nursery and everyone is singing and having a riotous time.

  3. Remove all furniture from the room and rearrange the tables into that horseshoe formation you saw on Pinterest. This will revolutionise the teaching and learning process, just you wait and see. Lug the enormous teacher’s desk into the corridor for disposal. Who needs a desk these days? You are far too modern and quirky for such encumbrances.

  4. Feel peckish. Check the staffroom for treats. Nothing is left except the packet of weird biscuity things that smell of socks, which Steve brought back from Peru when he went llama-trekking last summer. Nobody will ever be that hungry.

  5. Write names on 250 exercise books in your best cursive handwriting. Arrange Unifix bricks into colour-coded towers. Laminate the world and everything in it.

  6. Time to negotiate The Cupboard of Doom. Look around guiltily before throwing away a pack of mildewed tissue paper that you will never use. That felt good.

  7. Maniacally stuff three-quarters of the contents of the cupboard into bin bags. Goodbye, 1970s posters of Vikings. Farewell, Roger Red-hat books.

  8. Covered in dust, with a slightly crazed expression on your face, stop to gasp for air.

  9. Rip down displays with gay abandon. The stock cupboard contains only black and brown backing paper. But you were prepared for this and hid a load of colourful stuff before the end of term. Back the boards in rainbow colours, then add your class rules, showing off your double-mounting skills in the process.

  10. Everything’s going marvellously. Feel so pleased with self that you brave your pigeonhole. On top is a message from the deputy head informing you that the school has adopted a new policy of using only natural colours and materials in classroom displays. Excellent.
  11. Rip down displays again. Gay abandon notably absent this time. Re-back boards in shades of beige while dwelling on violent fantasies involving the deputy head and the staple gun.
  12. Laminator chews something up. Swear and kick it across the floor.
  13. Go outside and hack down some twigs and berries from the woodland area to spruce up new natural displays. Drape them across display boards in the hope that this will transform the classroom into a scene from The Wind in the Willows.
  14. Step back and have a look. Classroom does not look like The Wind in the Willows. Rip down foliage. Eat berries. Flagellate self with birch twigs.
  15. Unpack your files and discover you have nowhere to put them. Retrieve teacher’s desk from the corridor, reinstate it in the classroom and fill it with crap.
  16. Bang into the table because of the stupid effing horseshoe arrangement, possibly fracturing your hip.
  17. Aggressively move all the tables back to where they were to start with, shouting things like “fine, then”.
  18. Eat Steve’s Peruvian biscuits.
  19. Survey classroom. Note that it looks exactly the same as it did six hours ago, but is now beige and with all the resources in bin bags. Check calendar: how many weeks is it until half term, again?
  20. At least there is now plenty of room for you to hide in your cupboard and rock backwards and forwards. Every cloud, and all that.

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